The following comes from a Dec. 30 story in the Phoenix Catholic Sun.

Fathers and mothers have the ability and responsibility to lead their families to holiness, wrote Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted in an apostolic exhortation published Dec. 30.

The apostolic exhortation, titled “Complete My Joy,” is taken from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians when the Apostle challenges the reader to “make my joy complete” (Phil 1:27-2:2).

“Over these past 50 years, countless faithful Catholics have surely attained the goal of their lives — eternal salvation. Credit here is due to the rich mercy of God, to the dedicated priests and religious who have served our Diocese so well, and to you and the many faithful families who have lived — and continue to live — your vocations with generosity and even, at times, heroism,” Bishop Olmsted wrote in his introduction.

The bishop begins by recounting his own family upbringing and the role it played in his own vocation.

“When I consider the blessings that God has bestowed on me in my life, second only to my Baptism into Christ’s family is the blessing of being raised in a faithful and united Catholic family,” he writes. “My parents, Patrick and Helen, committed themselves to God in the vocation to Holy Matrimony, and this provided a stability for me to grow as their son and as a son of God.”

Bishop Olmsted promulgated the apostolic exhortation on the Feast of the Holy Family. It’s released as the Diocese of Phoenix 50th anniversary Jubilee Year of the Family kicks off.

The family — husband, wife and any children they may have — is an image of the Most Holy Trinity, the bishop writes, citing several recent popes. By its very nature, “your family” is a communion of love and life.

“The Christian family is also the littlest living cell of the Church — the domestic church,” he writes. “Your home is, and is called to grow, as an outpost of the mission of the Church militant on earth, in union and service with your parish.”

Sharing a parable of a philosopher and student, Bishop Olmsted emphasized the importance of role of parents. The philosopher invited the student to see his garden, which was full of weeds and the picture of neglect. When the student called the garden a mess, the philosopher replied, “just like the uncultivated soul.”

“The married couple’s family home is a life- and love-giving center in the world for as long as they both shall live, all the way to their Heavenly home,” he writes. “Simply put, the family is a big deal because it is the God-given and natural ‘soil’ meant for each new child’s growth.”

The bishop also emphasized the role parents play in exercising responsible authority and educating their children.

“Your judicious, patient, loving and determined exercise of authority is a protection of your children, a key gravity-center in their education, which requires a readiness to obey legitimate authority,” he writes. “No matter what challenges you face in your family in living God’s plan, the Lord has more grace in store than you can imagine. The nature of the family is a gift and a calling to life and love….”


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